Effects of the Product Assistant on customer satisfaction through the perceived product quality

Effects of the Product Assistant on customer satisfaction through the perceived product quality

Research ·

A Product Assistant is a digital, more modern, customer-friendly, mobile-first, and interactive user manual. First and foremost, the definition of a user manual is fairly simple. It is a step-by-step guide providing information on how to assemble, install, and generally use the product, an introduction to its main features, and also troubleshooting instructions to help people use the product properly. It should be the fundamental part of the customer experience, but the reality could be far different from the theory. The reason is that people usually do not read conventional product manuals as our survey suggests, mostly due to the mismanagement of customers' expectations and continuous lack of easily accessible information.


Main conclusions:

  • A positive and highly significant relationship between a Product Assistant quality and perceived product quality
  • A Product Assistant is a part of the whole product experience and overall quality perception
  • The value, familiarity, technology and complexity of the product moderate the effect of a Product Assistant quality on customer satisfaction

The user manuals are not presented nor organized in a way that would accommodate our needs. We want the information to be understood and handed over immediately as we don’t like to lose time. Thus, instead of using conventional user manuals, we can take advantage of today’s digital world and make it more interactive and customized. That’s where our Product Assistant steps in, solving the lack of engagement issues and opening the door for more opportunities. After using an efficient and effective Product Assistant, your customers might end up perceiving it as a part of their quality evaluation related to the product. Thus, such high-quality interactive manuals could influence their views not only on your products but also on your customer service and the company itself (Gök, Ersoy & Börühan, 2019).

Customers view the most obvious product characteristics, such as durability, serviceability, performance, usability, or reliability as part of the primary product. Most of us would think that those are indispensable factors in assessing customer satisfaction. We seem to ignore that the accompanying products and services - well known as secondary products have an equally important effect on overall satisfaction and thus, customer perception of product quality. The right type of manual plays a crucial role in “the total product package” and therefore, in measuring and explaining customers’ level of contentment (Smart, Madrigal & Seawright, 1996). As a result, providing a Product Assistant of the highest quality seems to be of great importance when assessing perceived product quality. Let’s look closely into what happens “behind the scenes” by answering the following question:

How could the Product Assistant's quality influence consumer satisfaction?

Above all, defining and measuring a Product Assistant quality is subjective from one organisation to another. However, looking at the academic conclusions, the quality of such an Assistant can be characterised by its usability, reliability, accessibility, readability, or findability (Mead, 1998). Consequently, having a high-quality Product Assistant can act as post-purchase product information signaling product quality. Why is this important?


Characteristics of a Product Assistant quality:

  • Usability
  • Reliability
  • Accessibility
  • Readability
  • Findability

In social psychology, the theory of “Cognitive dissonance” refers to the mental conflict that results from holding two conflicting beliefs. Thus, any discrepancy between expectations and product performance might cause high levels of mental discomfort. The dissonance is at its maximum right after purchasing the product (and before properly experiencing it) and that’s the foundation of satisfaction formation. Hence, the provision of post-purchase supporting information results in a decrease in psychological discomfort about the choice of purchasing that particular product. In a nutshell, sharing high-quality information helps to abate uncertainty and enable customers to make better use of the products, which ultimately impacts customer satisfaction. That means that a well-established user manual or in our case Product Assistant can influence satisfaction judgments (Cooper, 2011) (Gök, Ersoy & Börühan, 2019). This means that satisfied customers will start believing in your brand and become loyal. Such customers give your brand repeat business and form a major part of the company’s revenue.

Additionally, another theory called the “Contrast theory” can explain the product evaluation process as well. It predicts that the customer will amplify the difference between the product received and the product expected. That means that if the post-purchase product performance fails to meet the pre-purchase product expectations, the consumers will not be happy (Anderson, 1973) (Korgonkar & Moschis, 1982). As a result, the Product Assistants can be used as a tool to help assess the product and the related satisfaction judgments. In other words, a high-quality Assistant can help breach the gap between expectations and reality, and thus, provide a remarkable customer experience. This is critical to the sustained growth of the business. Moreover, customers are the main competition differentiator, which means that without high levels of customer satisfaction, your business is likely to perish in the future.

Furthermore, the findings of the empirical research by Gök, Ersoy & Börühan (2019) back these theories even further by revealing that there is a positive and highly significant relationship between user manual quality and perceived product quality. They found that consumers judge their interaction with such manuals as an intrinsic part of the whole product experience. Besides, it proposes that product value, familiarity, complexity, or technology, and product experience moderate the direct and indirect effects of manual quality on customer satisfaction via perceived product quality. These theories can be easily applied to the context of our Product Assistants as well since they are digital user manuals. In addition, the study of Jahanshahi et al. (2011) shows that through the use of more interactive content of user manuals (such as Product Assistants), customers exhibit even higher levels of engagement and satisfaction as well as demonstrate greater levels of brand loyalty.

All in all, Product Assistants accompanying the product should be viewed as an extension of the “core product” that influences its assessment and is an intrinsic element of the whole product and customer experience. Such overall perceived product quality mediates the influence of a Product Assistant's quality on customer satisfaction. Thus, providing high-quality Product Assistants should be a vital part of your product management and development strategies.

References

Anderson, R.E. (1973), “Consumer dissatisfaction: the effect of disconfirmed expectancy on perceived product performance”, Journal of Marketing Research, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 38-44.

Cooper, J., 2011. Cognitive dissonance theory. Handbook of theories of social psychology, 1, pp.377-398.

Gök, O., Ersoy, P. & Börühan, G., 2019. The effect of user manual quality on customer satisfaction: the mediating effect of perceived product quality. Journal of Product & Brand Management.

Jahanshahi, A.A., Gashti, M.A.H., Mirdamadi, S.A., Nawaser, K. and Khaksar, S.M.S., 2011. Study the effects of customer service and product quality on customer satisfaction and loyalty. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 1(7), pp.253-260.

Korgaonkar, P.K. & Moschis, G.P., 1982. “An experimental study of cognitive dissonance, product involvement, expectations, performance and consumer judgment of product performance”, Journal of Advertising, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 32-44.

Mead, J., 1998. Measuring the value added by technical documentation: A review of research and practice. Technical communication, 45(3), p.353.

Smart, K.L., Madrigal, J.L. and Seawright, K.K., 1996. The effect of documentation on customer perception of product quality. IEEE transactions on professional communication, 39(3), pp.157-162.

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